Sex Roles, Vol. 54, Nos. 1/2, January 2006 (
Gender Attitudes Mediate Gender Differences in Attitudes
Toward Adoption in Guatemala
Judith L. Gibbons,
Samantha L. Wilson,
and Christine A. Rufener
Gender differences in gender role attitudes, including machismo, and attitudes toward adop-
tion were studied in Guatemala, a country that provides a large number of children for inter-
national adoption. Guatemalan university students (N = 152) completed the machismo sub-
scale of the Multiphasic Assessment of Cultural Constructs—short form (Cu
alez, 1995), the attitudes toward women scale for adolescents (Galambos, Peterson,
Richards, & Gitelson, 1985), and an adoption beliefs scale developed for the present study.
Men endorsed more machismo, more traditional gender role attitudes, and held less favor-
able attitudes toward adoption than women did. Gender differences in adoption attitudes
were mediated by machismo and gender role attitudes. These results suggest that machismo
and traditional gender role attitudes may serve as barriers in the promotion of intra-country
KEY WORDS: adoption; Guatemala; gender attitudes.
Women and men hold different opinions on a
range of family issues, including the value of chil-
dren, appropriate gender roles within the family, and
attitudes toward adoption. Cross-culturally, studies
show that women and men differ in their motiva-
tions for having children (Arnold et al., 1975); within
the United States men regard increased social status,
tradition, and continuity of the family line as more
important reasons to have children than do women
(Morahan-Martin, 1991). Furthermore, women see
parenthood as more costly than do men (O’Laughlin
& Anderson, 2001).
Men hold less favorable attitudes toward adop-
tion than do women. A recent national survey of
over 1400 randomly contacted adults in the US re-
vealed that women were more likely than men to
have considered adopting children, 42–35%, respec-
tively (Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2002).
In a Canadian study, more women than men agreed
that adoptive and biological parents held the same
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feelings toward their children (Miall & March, 2003).
Furthermore, transracial adoption is viewed more fa-
vorably by US college women than by their male
counterparts (Whatley, Jahangardi, Ross, & Knox,
One trend in adoption is the increasing preva-
lence of international adoption, especially to coun-
tries in North America and Europe from countries in
the developing world. Although there are many stud-
ies of international adoption, the bulk of the research
in this area concentrates on the adopted child’s ad-
justment in receiving countries; there are few studies
from sending countries (Freundlich, 2002). Because
international adoption may speak to larger societal
issues within sending countries, it is important to un-
derstand the perceptions of those within the culture
of origin. Speciﬁcally, it is important to understand
the social, economic, demographic, and attitudinal
circumstances that affect local within-country adop-
tion practices (Silk, 1990).
The inter-country adoption policy embraced by
UNICEF (see UNICEF, 2004) and many interna-
tional NGOs is that the optimal strategy for promot-
ing children’s well-being is to provide support for
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